Wednesday, 20 Oct 2021

‘Overhyped’ EU plan on Brexit protocol includes ‘very vague’ customs proposals

Brexit: Expert explains row over NI Protocol concessions

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On Wednesday, the EU set out changes which they believe will help ease a major source of tension in the Brexit negotiations. The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to stop border checks between the UK and Republic of Ireland, in the EU.

But it has led to trade disruptions between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, prompting anger and calls for it to be re-assessed.

The protocol agreed to Northern Ireland – to prevent border checks – would continue to follow EU rules on product standards. But instead checks would take place upon goods entering Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales.

After months of back and forth – including arguments a new border had been enforced in the Irish Sea – the EU has come up with a new proposal.

This has been assessed by Raoul Ruparel in a Twitter thread.

The EU’s proposals aim for an 80 percent reduction in checks on food products – though they say will not be renegotiating the protocol.

It will allow chilled meats to enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Mr Ruparel, former Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Europe, believes the proposal has been “overhyped”, and offers reference to the text throughout.

He tweeted: “There are definitely some meaningful & welcome steps in EU’s proposals on NI Protocol.

“But the more I got into the texts, the less impressed I was.

“I also fear the EU overhyped them over past few days.”

He added: “The texts of the documents definitely don’t live up to the hype of the pre-briefing nor the press releases.

“They follow the approach of setting out steps the UK must take first before some vague ‘possible solutions’ might be considered.”

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Mr Ruparel continued: “The Customs proposals are very vague.

“The possibility of a wider scope for not at-risk goods is welcome & requirement for less info could certainly streamline things.

“But the text doesn’t really set out how this will happen at all.”

On medicines, he compliments the proposal, but says they also miss a point.

Mr Ruparel wrote: “The medicines proposals are broadly good & certainly could help to secure some supply chains of generic drugs into NI. But, they do miss a big point.

“A key issue is where life saving drugs are approved by GB regulators but not EU ones. Will they be available in NI? The EU sets out they can be provided on a case by case basis, but this is the case now so they haven’t addressed this issue when it comes to medicines.”

On chilled meat, he notes: “Factsheets suggest chilled meat products (i.e. sausage wars) issue has been solved but, judging from the below, it requires ongoing alignment with product regulations which is not really a new or novel solution. Also not clear if UK would agree in longer term.”

Tony Connelly, Europe Editor for RTE, said that the lack of detail was “deliberate” in a tweet responding to Mr Ruparel – because the proposals are an early stage of implementation.

He tweeted: “I would point out that the lack of detail is deliberate, as in, these are discussion papers.

“The idea is that they signpost solutions but the final detail will be negotiated by both sides.”

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